Hearing without understanding

Businessman in helmet covering his ears over white backgroundI share a short message at preschool chapel twice a week. It’s one of those things that I don’t always look forward to, but always leave feeling better about myself and the future.

Kids have that affect on me.

Each chapel time starts with singing. And, as you can imagine, we sing quite a few repetitive songs. And we have standards; that is, some we sing every time we gather.

For one of these standards, we have many different flavors or styles. We have “baby style,” “mommy style,” “daddy style,” (which is my favorite, since it is everyone else trying to sing really low, and me singing normally).

And, for fun, the director often invites children to offer new styles. This elicits some serious creativity!  Last week, taking requests, the director thought she heard a child request “angel style.”

What the child had actually requested, though, was “ninja style.”

An honest mistake. And a reminder that we often hear what we want to hear.

Not to compete with the movie franchise…

I am writing this to be read on Friday, April 13th.  We’ll have another Friday the 13th in July of this year.

What do you think about Friday the 13th?  The Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina estimated in 2012 that between 17 and 21 million Americans struggle to some degree or other with stress related to Friday the 13th. The same group estimates that people changing their behavior because of Friday the 13th costs between $800 and $900 million in business.

Symptoms range from mild anxiety to full-on panic attacks.
And, of course, a new movie in the Friday the 13th series debuts nearly every time one occurs.

Though many connect anxiety related to Friday the 13th to Jesus plus his 12 disciples making 13, there is no historical evidence of the day actually causing anxiety before the 19th century.

While I don’t suffer stress related to this particular day, I have to admit I have some of my own superstitions. For example, though I know Jesus tells us that God makes the rain fall on the just and unjust, I still sometimes imagine God as trying to send me messages through difficulty or trial.

All of which reminds me of a phrase I learned when I served in small-town churches. The phrase was “don’t borrow worry.”

Which reminds me of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34.

In teaching the disciples (and everyone else in the crowd that day) not to worry, but, rather, to seek God first. Peter advises us all to, “Throw all your anxiety onto him [Jesus], because he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

So, if you are anxious today, or any day, take a deep breath. Hold it for a 5 count, and release it slowly. Do it again. As you breathe slowly, try a breath prayer.

Here is a traditional breath prayer: As you inhale, think, “Jesus Christ, Son of God.” Imagine yourself actually breathing God’s presence in. Then, as you exhale, think, “have mercy on me a sinner.” Again, as you exhale, imagine yourself actually breathing your sins out, away from you.

Just slowing your breathing will reduce anxiety. Coupling it with such a prayer helps us to “seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness.”

Which is a good thing to do whether it is Friday the 13th or not!

Peace,
Pastor Steve Heyduck

Are we in Sync?

I saw and re-tweeted a request for prayer for Belize this morning. Our Church is sending a team on mission there in April, so it caught my attention.

That I was invited to pray for Belize wasn’t blog-worthy. The other point the tweet shared was. Apparently much of Belize has been evangelized, but there is much religious syncretism there. Syncretism is, simply put, the blending of practices and/or beliefs of at least 2 different religions.

So today Belize and the challenges of religious syncretism are in my prayers today. But I cannot prayer for such a thing in one area without it raising my awareness in others.

Which brings me to the tour of the U.S. Capitol last July. We had a great time on the tour provided by the office of Senator Jerry Moran (we were with my in-laws who live in Kansas).  Near the end of this tour, our group huddled in the rotunda so we could hear our tour guide. She invited us all to look up and see the impressive painting inside the dome itself. Painted by Italian Constantino Brumidi in 1865, she explained that the painting is called “The Apotheosis of Washington.” She translated this for us as “George Washington goes to heaven.”usa-us_capitol3.jpg

Which is, I explained later, so as not to embarrass her, technically true. But apotheosis carries much more meaning than simply “goes to heaven.”

Apotheosis was a term used by Roman Emperors in the early days of Christianity. Specifically, apotheosis was the word for the claim that after a Caesar died, he became a god.

I have never heard anyone claim that George Washington became a god. I have, however, heard the founding era in our history glorified in ways that, frankly, concern me that religious syncretism is not a danger only in other countries and for other people.

While we pray for the challenges of religious syncretism in other nations, let us also be wary of the danger of religious syncretism in our own.

Thoughts and Prayers

ringing-icon-on-a-mobile-phone-showing-smartphone-call_fkJ4m7vd.jpgOver the years, I have gotten to the place where I don’t blog in a reactionary way as I once did. But the school shooting in Florida last week has gotten me thinking.

Ok, that’s not exactly right. The Parkland High school shooting has gotten me praying and thinking – trying to find something to do besides praying and thinking. yes, I have been praying and thinking about what do to beyond praying and thinking.

And then, wouldn’t you know it, I hear a cell phone notification tone during Young Disciples Time at our 8:30 am worship service. It wasn’t too loud; actually, not really loud enough to be distracting.

But loud enough to get me thinking.

You see, I was already determined to focus the pastoral prayer that morning on inviting God to challenge us, God’s people, followers of Jesus, to do something as a response to the incredible rise of school shootings.

We need to pray, this is beyond question. But it seems that at times like this – especially as there are SO MANY times like this! – to say we should pray can become a cop out.

“Well, I’ve prayed, I don’t know what else I can do!” we might be tempted to say.

And then the notification tone. Which, of course, made me check my phone. It wasn’t on silent!  I quickly, simply, silently, switched it to silent.

I did not pray and ask God to silence my phone.

That would have been missing the point entirely of God having created us in God’s own image and calling us into partnership for stewarding creation.

I can, of course, pray and ask God to help me remember to silence my phone. But it makes little sense to leave such a thing to making a request of God when there is something I can do.

So: I don’t know exactly what we are going to do as Americans about the tragedy of school shootings, but I know prayer can’t be all we do.

We must at least remember, as we pray, that prayer is communication between us and God.

We talk, God listens.

God talks, we listen.

Not always necessarily in this order.  ( we who recognize prevenient grace would likely have to admit that some of the times we pray we pray in response to the Holy Spirit’s urging.)

When we dare pray about school shootings, I feel pretty confident God is going to answer us.

Are we ready to hear what God has to say? I don’t know for sure. But I do know that if by “praying” I mean “tell God how bothered you are about ______ and leave it up to God to fix it,” I’ve not actually come to grips with what prayer is.

om, I feel your pain!

One year, even after at least half a dozen people had checked it, we published and mailed out a flyer with the schedule of our Holy Week events.

It included, and I wish I was making this up, a line that said our Maundy Thursday service was on “Wednesday, March….”

How could so many people all miss something like that? I don’t know how it happened, but I can assure you this: it happens. To the best of us.

Can I admit here that I enjoy, just a little, finding a typo or other issue in a publication – especially if the book came from Oxford or Harvard or some other incredibly respected institution.

Reminders that everyone makes mistakes help me stop beating myself up over my mistakes.

Call this burying the lead, but this post is, if you haven’t already caught on, inspired by the reports that the tickets for tonight’s State of the Union included a misspelling. “Union” was spelled “Uniom.”

And, of course, this mistake exploded around social media and late night comedy.

Which, likely, has some people feeling defensive for the President.

I feel for everyone here; I enjoy getting laughs at things I post, and sometimes those laughs are at someone else’s expense.

But here’s the deal: the real problem, as I see it, is neither the type nor the jabs for laughter’s sake. No, the real problem is that many of us are more than willing to laugh – we share, forward, retweet, when “the other side” slips up, but we get all bent out of shape when someone we support is the object of any ridicule or humor.

Maybe it is ok to enjoy a laugh about a mistake made by someone you don’t like or respect. But if it’s ok for you, try not to get bent out of shape when someone else is laughing at someone you like and respect.

 

Am I Addicted?

irresistible
I just finished my first read of Adam Alter’s Irresistible. I clarified “my first read” because I am going to start it again today. I social media-ed that “I can’t put it down,” partly for the irony, partly because I really enjoyed the read.

We are, most of us, addicted to technology that didn’t exist at the turn of the century. If we aren’t addicted, we have certainly learned to rely heavily upon it.

Case in point: I tried the other day to remember how I got directions and found places before google maps and gps technology.

All I could think of was Mapquest. Mapping and printing out maps and carrying them with me.

Alter doesn’t spend much time on using our phones to find our next lunch stop. Rather, he digs into why we are so addictable and how high tech and low tech companies keep us hooked.

His thesis relies on behavioral addiction being analogous to substance addiction, and, while you might not buy this link, I do.

After all, I have a fitbit, and have had one since 2012.

That’s when I joined the health care plan I have currently, so that’s when I became eligible to earn rewards for reaching or achieving certain activity levels. Since then, I can assure you, I have averaged a little more than 12,000 steps per day. My resting heart-rate, since I “upgraded” to a tracker that monitors my pulse, has averaged 59 this year.

Alter suggests that fitness trackers lead us to place our emphasis in the wrong place. We walk (or run) for the sake of the counter, rather than for health.

I had to admit this morning there may be some truth to this contention.

I’ve been a  runner for at least 7 years. That’s when I became a father again at age 46, and committed to being a vital 64 and 66 when my 2 younger kids graduate.

But I achieved  the final level of reward that my health plan offers during the first week of December.

And I haven’t run very much since then. I’ve been lacking the motivation.

When I started, good health was all the motivation I needed. It seems the opportunity for cash rewards (and, honestly, not all that much cash) has blurred that original vision.

I am going to keep wearing my fitbit – it serves as my watch, after all! – but I think my motivation needs a bit of

RECALCULATING

How’s your motivation?  Are you distracted by technology, or have you found ways to keep it’s addictive nature in check?  If you have developed practices to integrate tech into your life but not let it run you, please let me know, and share them. Because this confrontation isn’t going to get any easier!

How will you remember?

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Six years ago today, we checked Eliza into Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children. It was the beginning of what would end up being an almost 7 month process of correcting the dysplasia in her left hip.

The hospital was wonderful; we still have annual follow-up appointments as she grows.

If we didn’t have these annual follow-ups, and if she didn’t have the scar, I don’t think Eliza would even know she had been through two procedures, one surgery, and 24 weeks in a spica cast.

It is up to Rachel and I to remember it for her. We want to help her remember it well!  We have awesome stories about how we got to Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, which include a chance encounter with a good friend of mine from more than 20 years before.

We all are who we are because others have done some remembering for us. Sometimes for the good, sometimes not.

I read someplace a few years ago, a recommendation to spend money on travel rather than things. The article argued that even trips that leave a lot to be desired end up being “improved” by memory as the years pass. I have found this to be true in my own life, but I also know people who seem to remember things as worse than they could possibly have been.

How will you remember?  Some of what you remember may have a great affect on how you live, and even on the lives of others.